Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, February 2, 2009

Growing Love

Even if it was a matter of life or death, I probably couldn't tell you the exact vows my husband and I took on our wedding day. At least, not all of them. I remember "to love, honor, and cherish..." And I definitely remember "til death do you part.." But the part that really sticks out in my mind is an image of us standing face to face, bold black letters flowing out of our mouths, spelling out "in good times and in bad." I am betting not a lot of us really think about these particular words in that moment - their weight or meaning, the sudden permanence they stamp on our lives. This isn't to say we don't mean them, it's just a matter of actually thinking at that moment that we are making a promise to each other that we must keep. And as things stand in this world, it doesn't seem to matter if we keep it or not.

But to me it did matter. And it still does.

I've been thinking a lot about the many aspects of being a good mother to my children, and I realized that a very important aspect is being a good wife to my husband. I've touched on this subject very little and can only think of
one post in which I know for sure that I mentioned this idea. But since things have been a little crazy around here lately and my husband and I haven't really been on the same page much, I have been convicted of this idea more and more. The convictions have come in starts and spurts, sneaking up on me in small ways that have left very large impressions on my heart. Like the look on my daughter's face when her dad and I are yelling at each other. Or my son's new way of expressing his anger - a finger pointed at one of us, the "s" word tumbling out of his mouth in broken 3 year old speak. I'm sad to say that this is our fault but along with that sadness comes some much-needed humility and a clearer view of the bigger picture.

I remember that when my husband and I first got married, some people were convinced of some crazy ideas of the motivation for our marriage. A lot of them didn't think we'd make it and made all kinds of judgments that we didn't even love each other. Some of this wasn't mentioned until much further down the road, when things were kind of chaotic for us and our future didn't seem so bright. But we pressed on, knowing that deep down, somewhere underneath all the craziness and dirt, we did have a seed of love that was dying to be nurtured.

Four years later, we still haven't gotten our gardening skills quite right. We have come a long way but sometimes, it feels like we're just moving backward, digging up what has been planted. Often, I feel like nothing has changed but in my heart, I know it has. We gave our marriage to the Ultimate Gardener - God - the day we took those vows, even if at first we forgot this fact. But He did not forget and He took our willingness to give Him the control and through His love, He has been nurturing that seed, even when we neglect it. That's not to say the seed doesn't need our hard work, too. But it's an amazing feeling to know that He is there to keep it alive even when we can't find the strength to.

As the keepers of our children, it's our responsibility to give them the best example we can of a love that emulates His. Ours is far from perfect. There is still so much work that needs to be done. But we need to go back to those vows we took on our wedding day and really think about them and their meaning for our life together. And we need to start living them each and every day. It's hard work to grow love, especially when the beginning seed is so small, so fragile. I often wish we both had taken some more time to think about the promises we were going to be making to each other before that day, because then our garden wouldn't have been so full of weeds over the years.

I have this image in my mind of our tiny garden starting out with so many of those weeds, our attempts at clearing them being too meager to make much difference. But God can do some amazing things with willing hearts, even if the space is small and overcrowded. With His strength, we have been able to start pulling even the tallest weeds with the biggest roots. And though there are times when it seems like we might even be planting new weeds, our little garden of love is slowly flourishing. It's hard to remember this fact in the middle of angry moments or difficult times. But in my heart, I know that those promises we made on our wedding day - even if I can't remember them exactly - were promises with their roots in God's hands, and nothing will pull them out.

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